Halloween approaches; Many of us have exhausted the best of “leaf-peeping” season, are bracing ourselves for fewer hours of daylight. But we are looking forward to blazing logs in the fireplace, hayrides & bonfires, and all the well-established and brand new ways to incorporate PUMPKIN into our lives. It's a fall favorite capable of appealing to at least three of our senses: Taste, Sight, and Smell.
Yes, I know there are some people who don’t care for pumpkin, or pumpkin spice, but statistics suggest far more people love the taste and smell than those who don’t.
This highly recognized symbol of autumn can be found in six continents around the world – but its true home is Mexico. Calabaza is a pre-Hispanic crop that dates back more than 8,000 years. These original pumpkins were small, hard and bitter, but their durable exterior was ideal for surviving harsh weather and less bountiful harvests, which made them an integral part of the ancient Mexican diet.
European pilgrims came along, saw the pumpkins grown by the natives and liked what they saw so much that they brought the seeds back to Europe.
A pumpkin, from a botanist‘s perspective, is a fruit because it’s a product of the seed-bearing structure of flowering plants. Vegetables, on the other hand, are the edible portion of plants such as leaves, stems, roots, bulbs, flowers, and tubers.
The top pumpkin-producing states include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, 95% of the U.S. crop intended for processing is grown in Illinois.
TASTE & SMELL
Certainly, Pumpkin Pie is probably the most widely recognized way to ingest it, specifically during Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. Even those who aren’t particularly fond of pumpkin pie, eat it once a year because it’s “TRADITION”!! Personally, Pumpkin Soup is my favorite use of pumpkin, but many pumpkin-lovers can’t get enough and use either pumpkin or pumpkin spice in brownies, muffins, bagels, scones, Latte, pancakes, and much more. A few others that sound intriguing include Pumpkin Crisps (made by baking the skin in the oven), roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin curry Risotto.
Here are links to a few that look amazing!
(Photo on right)
Pumpkins have a pretty impressive nutritional profile. They contain up to 94% water, are high in antioxidants, rich in vital vitamins and minerals, and can help keep you energized and your heart healthy. As well as vitamins C and E, one cup alone of the pumpkin contains more Vitamin A than a cup of kale.
PUMPKIN FUN! (The Legend of "Stingy Jack")
People have been making Jack-O’-Lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.
Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.
Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’ Lantern.”
MIGRATION TO GERMANY
The pumpkin is not native to mainland Europe, although you wouldn’t know it by the fields of orange, rotund beauties you speed by on the train. A North American import is now a household staple and Kürbissuppe (pumpkin soup) appears on most menus in the autumn and winter. Some have equated the rise of the pumpkin in Germany with the rise in popularity of Halloween.
Pumpkins were used by Native Americans for centuries prior to the arrival of European settlers, who both adopted them into their diet and brought them back to Europe. Since their first introduction to the continent, pumpkins have made quite a splash across the pond, specifically in Germany, and especially in recent years.
Demand for pumpkins in Germany has grown significantly in recent years. From 2006 to 2013, the amount of pumpkins being produced increased by about two thirds. In 2013, a colossal 69,000 tons of the fruit were harvested in the country..
This "pumpkin-boom" cannot only be attributed to Germans' newfound affinity for the delicious taste of pumpkin soup on increasingly cold autumn nights, but to another increasingly popular American import: Halloween.
The increasing popularity of the pumpkin in Germany is also reflected in the quantity of its harvest, as the chart below shows. Since 2006, its harvest has more than doubled across the country. Over three quarters of Germany’s pumpkins are grown in Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.
TATSTE, SMELL & PUMPKIN FUN - DEUTSCHLAND STYLE
These days you won't find the largest pumpkin festival in the world in the USA or Canada. It's in Germany. The Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival held every year in the small city of Ludwigsburg in Baden-Württemberg, currently holds that prestigious title.
Hosted on the grounds of the Residential Palace, your senses will be astounded by the many varieties and forms of pumpkins.
Wander the gardens to see the many pumpkin sculptures and installations on the year’s theme. Taste a delicious range of pumpkin dishes, including soup, pastries, fritters, and even wine! Examine the rows and rows of marvelous pumpkins in the exhibition, featuring hundreds of different pumpkin and gourd varieties in all shapes and sizes. Marvel at the enormous pumpkins competing in the great Weigh Off.
There are also special events to try at different times of the festival, including live music, paddling in a canoe made of a hollowed-out pumpkin, carving your own Halloween pumpkin, and even smashing pumpkins on the final day.
One of the events at this year's festival: The Pumpkin Canoe Regatta. Photo: DPA.
More than 450,000 pumpkins descend on this small city every year, outnumbering Ludwigsburg's inhabitants by more than 5 to 1. And 800 different species are represented among the around 150 tons of pumpkin that make it to the city.
What began in 2000, inspired by two brothers' (Beat and Martin Jucker) visit to a Swiss pumpkin exhibition, now attracts around 400,000 pumpkin lovers over a nine-week period. The festival is entering its 20th year and is a symbol of the growing popularity of the pumpkin in Germany today.
What fun is looking at all of these delicious pumpkins if you can't eat any of them? Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival is happy to oblige with tons of pumpkin-inspired foods and drinks. Find pumpkin on Flammkuchen, in sausage and in Maultaschen. Try Kürbis (Pumpkin) spaghetti, pumpkin seed pesto, pumpkin burgers, pumpkin fries, pumpkin strudel…..and of course, pumpkin soup!
If you want to bring a little pumpkin home, there are plenty of delicious pumpkin products. Stands offer everything from pumpkin chutney to pumpkin ketchup to cinnamon-sugar coated pumpkin seeds. Bring your own jug to fill with fresh-pressed apple cider. Take the opportunity to sample everything.
The Pumpkin Festival is open from 9 am to 8:30 pm, seven days a week, August 3rd till November 3, 2020 (although several sites indicate that it’s open until December 6, 2020 so please visit the Festival website). Click here for event schedules and details!
"Markets in France and Germany routinely feature some of the best fresh pumpkin to be found anywhere on the planet -- firm, meaty, relatively seedless, and (most important) flavorful. But then these are varieties that have been bred for the table for centuries -- not the North American varieties that are mostly bred for size so that they'll make good jack-o-lanterns at Halloween."
WHEN IT COMES TO EUROPEAN PUMPKINS VS NORTH AMERICAN PUMPKINS....WE ARE NOT COMPARING APPLES TO APPLES!
Markets in France and Germany routinely feature some of the best fresh pumpkin to be found anywhere on the planet -- firm, meaty, relatively seedless, and (most important) flavorful. But then these are varieties that have been bred for the table for centuries -- not the North American varieties that are mostly bred for size so that they'll make good jack-o-lanterns at Halloween.
KEEP IT GOING!
Personally, I would be okay with the smell of Pumpkin from the moment is starts getting chilly until I see trees starting to bloom again! So, living in Germany, this might be from the end of September until early May! Although pumpkins are seasonal in the U.S. and in Germany, the candle manufacturers make it easy to enjoy the pumpkin scent year-round!
If you can't find a pumpkin-scented candle, a pot of hot simmering Glühwein will do the trick! Both make the whole house smell incredible (and holiday-ish); the only difference is one melts away, and the other (which is designed for consumption) has it's own way of disappearing!
As they say in the south, Happy Fall Y'All!